Saturday, February 24, 2018

Friday Five - Top 5 MLB Players From Duke

Last week I did a post on the Top 5 MLB players from NC State.  This week I am taking a 30 minute drive west on I-40 to do a post with the top former Blue Devils who have hit the field for a Major League baseball team.  Before I get to the top five, I have to give a tip of the cap to two former Major League players who were connected to the Duke Baseball program as coaches.

Probably more important to the program than almost every player on my Top 5 list....

Ace Parker 

Ace was a multi-sport star at Duke during the mid 1930s.  He was on the Philadelphia A's for 38 games in 1937 and 56 games in 1938.  That was the end of his baseball career.  One could argue that 90 some games is not really much to go on in terms of evaluating the quality of play.  However, when Ace walked away from baseball it was to play football in the NFL.  He won the 1940 NFL MVP and managed to put together a good enough career on the gridiron that he was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 1972.  Probably a good decision on his part.

Parker returned to Durham after his football career and initially worked as the manager of the Durham Bulls.  He also had a side job during the fall as an assistant coach on Duke's football team.  Eventually, Parker took over the coaching duties of the Duke baseball team in 1953.  He retired from coaching baseball in 1966.  Interestingly, he remained on the football coaching staff the entire time that he was also the head baseball coach.  During his time at Duke, Parker coached the Blue Devils to three ACC Championships, a Southern Conference Championship (Pre-ACC), and two appearances in the College World Series.

I am not sure how many people outside of central North Carolina know the name Ace Parker, I didn't before I moved here, but he is a tremendously important sports figure from the 1930, 40s, and 50s who had a huge impact on the school.  The numbers on his baseball card are not as good as the rest of the people on this list, but he's one of the most important figures in the history of Duke's athletic program.  

Jack Coombs 

Coombs actually went to college at a small school in Maine before he spent 14 years playing in the Majors with A's, Dodgers, and Tigers.  His best years were during the first half of his career with the A's.  The team was loaded with Hall of Famers including Chief Bender, Frank "Home Run" Baker, Eddie Plank, and Eddie Collins.  The team won back to back World Series in 1910 and 1911.  Coombs led the American League in wins during both seasons.  He won 3 of the 4 games needed to win the 1910 World Series against the Cubs, and added another victory during the following season's Series against the Giants.

After Coombs retired from baseball, he ended up at Duke as the baseball coach.  In all, he coached the Blue Devils for 24 years and retired with a .636 winning percentage.  Coombs helped the Blue Devils win the Southern Conference, the ACC had not been formed at that point, six times and advance to the College World Series twice.

Again, not a Duke baseball player, but a very important person to the program.  The modern Blue Devils split their games between the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and their on-campus baseball stadium, which bears the name of Jack Coombs.  There is a statue of the long time coach outside the stadium.

5. Chris Capuano 

Capuano is a native of Springfield, Massachusetts native who pitched at Duke in the late 1990s.  He earned an Economics degree while he was in Durham.  Originally drafted by the Diamondbacks, he was traded to the Brewers for Richie Sexson.  In all, Capuano spent 12 years in the Major Leagues between 2003 and 2016, half of that time was spent in Milwaukee.  His two best seasons were in 2005 and 2006.  In 2005, he won 18 games, pitched more than 200 innings, and set a career high with 176 strikeouts.  In 2006, Capuano was named to the National League All-Star team, and duplicated his innings pitched and strikeout numbers.

Capuano did not appear in a Major League game in 2008 or 2009 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.  The Brewers released him and then resigned him to a Minor League contract allowing him to work his way back up to the Majors through their system.  He returned in the middle of the 2010 season.   At the end of the season, Capuano signed with the Mets as a free agent.  He also spent time during the second half of his career with the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Yankees before returning to the Brewers for 16 games in 2016.

4. Marcus Stroman 

I think the first two or three times I saw Marcus Stroman play for Duke he was a second baseman.  He starred for Duke for three years between 2010 and 2012, obviously he ended up becoming a star pitcher for the Blue Devils.  I first saw his pitching skills on display at USA Baseball's College National Team.  The Blue Jays made him the 22nd overall pick during the 2012 MLB Draft.  Obviously, he is not very far into his career, but I would guess he should be 2nd on the list if I revisited it in a few years.

Stroman has only played three full seasons with the Jays and has already won 37 games, had a pair of 200 inning seasons, and two seasons with more than 150 strikeouts.  He pitched a few games during the 2015 season, had a knee injury that shut him down for the year, but he just went back to Duke and finished the final year of his degree program.

Last season Stroman was a real bright spot for the Blue Jays.  He ended the seasons at 13-9 with a 3.09 ERA, and 164 strikeouts in 201 innings.  Stroman also won the Gold Glove Award for American League pitchers flashing some of those glove skills that I got to watch back when he was at Duke...

Again, early in his career, but Stroman has the potential to be one of the top two players on this list in the long run.  Someone might argue that Dick Groat has a bunch of World Series rings, that was anticlimactic to give away the top player on the list, but Marcus Stroman led the Majors last year in most appearances in rap videos.  

3. Ron Northey 

Ron Northey played for several different teams during the 1940s and 50s.  He played baseball at Duke in the late 1930s and was actually hard of hearing in one ear because of a bean ball incident from his time in Durham.  Northey started his journey through the Minor Leagues in the early 1940s, reaching the Majors with the Phillies during the 1942 season.  The Navy found him unfit for duty twice due to his hearing loss.  Eventually the Army drafted him in 1945 and he was stationed out of Fort Lewis, Washington.  

Before his time with the Army Northey had improved drastically each of his three seasons with the Phillies.  In 1942, he hit only 5 home runs with a .250/.300/.331 slash line.  His 1943 season was a little better, but 1944 showed that he had the talent to be an All-Star caliber player.  That season he hit 22 home runs, 104 RBIs, 9 triples, 35 doubles, and posted a .288/.367/.496 slash line.  He finished in the top 10 in dozens of offensive categories that season.  

The post-war version of Northey was not able to match his production from his 1944 season.  In 1946 he only managed 16 home runs with a .249 average playing full time with the Phillies.  The Phillies eventually traded him to the Cardinals where he found a niche as a part-time player with pop off of the bench.  

In 1947, the Cardinals gave him 361 plate appearances and he put up 15 home runs and 19 doubles with a .321 average.  He followed with similar lines for the Cardinals the following season before falling off with the home run totals and average during the 1949 season.  Northey spent the later years of his career bouncing around between the Reds, Cubs, White Sox, and made his way back to the Phillies before retiring as a player in 1957. 

After his playing career Northey worked as a scout and coach, including a stint with the Pirates in the early 1960s.  

2. Bill Werber 

Werber was a two sport star during his time at Duke and was actually the first All-American basketball player at Duke.  He led the Blue Devils basketball team to the Southern Conference Basektball Championship game twice.  They lost both games, but it was a pretty remarkable feat to even get that far considering the team had exactly five players.  

The losses came against Alabama and NC State who, according to local legend, decided that having five starting players and a few substitute players was a better way to win stuff with your basketball team.  

Werber played three season on Duke's baseball team under the aforementioned Jack Coombs.  He hit .400 each of his three seasons on the baseball team.  After graduation he joined the Yankees, whom he had toured with as an amateur player in 1927 before attending college.  Werber played a total of 7 games with the team between two stints with the team in 1930 and 1933.  During his first at-bat he drew a walk, but quickly scored his first Major League run when Babe Ruth hit a home run as the next batter.  

Werber lived to be 100 and was the last living teammate of Ruth's at the time of his death in 2009.  

As for the rest of his Major League career, Werber went on to spent time with the Red Sox, Reds, A's, and Giants.  He led the American League in stolen bases three different times during the 1930s, twice with Boston and another time with Philadelphia.  Probably the best accomplishment of Werber's Major League career was his appearance in back to back World Series with the Reds.  The 1939 squad lost to the Yankees in four straight games.  The 1940 squad did better, beating the Tigers in a seven game series.  Werber hit .370 and scored 5 runs for the Reds.  

1. Dick Groat 

Werber was the first All-American at Duke, but Dick Groat was the first Duke basketball player to have his jersey in the rafters of Cameron Indoor.  He was an All-American basketball player twice and played one year of basketball in the NBA with the Pistons.  All of this time Groat also was playing baseball.  His first season with the Pirates was in 1952.  Groat played 95 games that summer before missing the 1953 and 1954 seasons due to military service during the Korean War.  

He returned to the Pirates for the 1955 season and his career took off over the next few seasons.  In 1957, Groat finished in the top 5 in batting in the National League behind some other decent players: Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Frank Robinson.  He made his first All-Star team in 1959 and in 1960 won the National League MVP while helping the Pirates win the World Series.  

Groat made three more All-Star teams in the early 1960s and finished second in MVP voting in 1963 while playing for the Cardinals.  The following season, in 1964, he helped the Cardinals win the World Series against the Yankees.  He ended his Major League career by playing a few years with the Phillies, and a final season with the Giants in 1967.  

He's also had a fairly successful career post-baseball too.  in 1979, Groat was hired as a radio broadcaster for the Pitt Panthers basketball games.  In recent years, he has stopped working most of their road games, but still can be heard when Pitt plays home games.  

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Project Durham Bulls #30 - Justin Marks

2016 - 2017 Durham Bulls 


The A's drafted Justin Marks out of the University of Louisville in the 3rd Round of the 2009 MLB Draft.  At Louisville, Marks had been an All-Big East selection several times, as well as the Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2008.  He pitched in the Oakland system for a portion of the 2009 season and the 2010 season before he was traded to the Royals for David DeJesus.  Marks made it as high as Triple A with the Royals before he started bouncing around between several different teams:

  • In June of 2014, Marks was purchased off of the Royals roster by the A's 
  • Later that month the Rangers claimed Marks off of waivers from the A's 
  • In July of 2014 the Rangers released Marks 
  • November of 2014 Marks was signed by the Diamondbacks 
Marks would pitch the entire 2015 season with the Diamondbacks Triple A team.  The following season he would end up signing as a Minor League Free Agent with the Rays, which is how he ended up in Durham.  Marks went 7-11 with a 3.86 ERA during the 2016 season with the Bulls, but the highlight of his time in Durham was his no-hitter against the Syracuse Chiefs.....

Marks returned to Durham for the first part of the 2017 season, but was claimed by the Dodgers in May.  He spent the rest of the year with the Triple A Oklahoma City Dodgers.  

Marks has appeared in 6 Major League games with the Rays and Royals.  He has no career record.  

Marks has a few autographed cards.  He has a nice Heritage Minors card from 2011 that I almost used for this post, but I went with a card that had him pictured in a Major League uniform.  It's not like any of his cards are really a stretch on the old PayPal account.  I had also considered his 2009 Donruss card, which has him in a Louisville uniform, but they were a Big East school at that point.  Not an ACC school at that point and I never saw him pitch in college. 

My two positives for choosing this card, beyond the fact that he's in a Major League uniform, were that the card came from the Bowman Platinum set and it's an on-card autograph.  On-card autographs are always a self explanatory decision, and while Bowman Platinum can be hit or miss on stickers, this card is sticker free.  Some years there is a combination of both, others just stickers.  I generally really like this product, appearance wise, etc, but that first year in 2010 was a stand out in my opinion.  

Monday, February 19, 2018

I Love The 1990s Cardinals Part 23 - Garrett Stephenson

The Cardinals were pretty terrible for the first half of the 1990s, but the team was sold by August Busch III at the end of the 1995 season to the team's current owner Bill DeWitt.  While some of the losing teams at the beginning of the decade were the result of the 1980s roster aging and turnover, it was compounded by the fact that Busch did not really spend any money on the baseball team.

DeWitt immediately started working on improving the roster, spent on free agents, added players through trades, and tried to make the team competitive.  It worked in 1996, the Cardinals came within a game of defeating the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series.  One of the important cogs on that team was left fielder Ron Gant.

Gant hit for power and came up with big hits at big moments for the team.  Gant also did not see eye to eye with Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa.  The two feuded and Gant was shipped away to the Phillies after the 1998 season with Jeff Brantley for Ricky Bottalico and a "marginal major-league prospect"

The Cardinals Minor Leaguer ended up being relief pitcher Cliff Politte and the "Marginal Major-League Prospect" ended up being Garrett Stephenson.  While it seems much more believable at this point, Stephenson was actually unhappy being on the Phillies because his locker was next to Curt Schilling.  

Apparently Schilling was using some different types of motivational techniques to get Stephenson to pitch better.....

From sports page.....

In 2004, local Philadelphia writer Glen Macnow expanded on the Schilling/Stephenson relationship in a book he wrote about different hot button issues surrounding the town's sports teams.  A chapter of the book was entitled "Was Curt Schilling a candid athlete or a self-serving jerk?" and goes into details about Schilling idolizing Roger Clemens, his hatred towards teammates he perceived to be "uncaring", and the public "dress-downs" that were often handed to these players.  Apparently Garrett Stephenson checked these boxes.  

So, off to the Cardinals.  

Stephenson pitched for the Cardinals in 1999, and did quite well, yet we do not have a 1990s baseball card of him wearing a Cardinals uniform.  He pitched in a total of 18 games for the 1999 team, started 12 games, and went 6-3 with an ERA just above 4.  That's not actually bad by late 1990s Cardinals standards.  Let's not forget that their rotation in 1999 included Darren Oliver, Jose Jimenez, Kent Merker, and Kent Bottenfield.  

Hard to believe that he didn't get some sort of card for 18 games as a pitcher.  There was even a Traded/Update set in 1999 too.  The most memorable Garrett Stephenson card, for me, from the 1990s was his Topps card from 1998.  

Kind of a really goofy card of Stephenson looking at pitch grips, but he looks really unsure of what is going on with whoever is talking to him.  Maybe he should have had a card made looking at those pitch grips on the back of a wiffle ball box.  

There were no Stephenson cards in 1999.  The pre-1999 selection of Stephenson cards is pretty sparse.  COMC lists 22 different Garrett Stephenson cards from the 1990s, which includes two games cards.  I never count those.  COMC only has 24 different cards for Stephenson after 1999, but some of those are parallels and game cards too.  

So, not many cards to choose from for this post, and for the first time ever I am going to have to post a non-1990s card to cover a player from the 1990s.  A little bit odd too considering that Stephenson won 16 games for the Cardinals in 2000.  The team won the National League Central and advanced to the National League Championship Series against the Mets before they ran out of gas.  

Stephenson blew out his arm in the first round of the playoffs against the Braves.  

He ended up getting some nice cards out of one year really good year.  Not many cards, but they were still nice for that era.  I have two favorites that stand out above the rest of his Cardinals cards.  First up, is an autograph from the cross-product Fleer Autographics set.  

These are always good looking cards.  This is also Stephenson's only autographed card.  It can be hard to find at times.  I owned a copy of this card at some point after it came at in 2001, but traded it, or sold it at some point a few years later.  Sort of a card I regretted losing.  I try to get as many Cardinals autographs as I can, but it's not like Stephenson as a favorite player.  Took awhile to find a new copy of this card when I finally got around to replacing the old one.  

Next card is an interesting one.  

There are tons of these Pacific Private Stock relics cards floating around.  Most are dirt cheap and really easy to find.  Except the patch cards are a little bit tougher to find and most teams only have one player with a patch card.  The Cardinals had a pretty good checklist of relic cards.....

so I am not sure why Stephenson was chosen as the player with the patch relic.  Honestly, this set was long viewed as an effort by Pacific to dump all of their relics, which I believe is true, so I am not sure why they didn't give every player a patch card.  

The McGwire card, which was not supposed to have been made by Pacific, has long been one of the most coveted cards from this set.  I own one......

if only I could find the Sosa card.  

The rest of Stephenson's cards are very ordinary.  Just base cards.  Sometimes.....

which there is nothing wrong with when it's well designed.  Just wish there was a 1990s Cardinals card of him.  

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Beginning Of Marcell

At some point during the summer of 2013 I decided to take a chance on picking up a card of young Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna.  He had actually played locally in Greensboro, and several of the collectors who are in a local Facebook group spent a fair amount of time raving about his potential.  I decided to check it out and I picked up one of his 2012 Bowman cards.

At the time, I was really happy about owning this card.  It seems like an even better card now that he was traded to the Cardinals this offseason for a package of Minor League prospects.  

It's been awhile since the Cardinals have a had a player with some star quality.  As a collector, I had noted several times over the last two or three summers how the Cardinals seemed to be stuck in this malaise.  Sure, the team looked okay in the standings, lingering near the playoffs, but not actually being able to close the deal in the end.  

Their baseball cards felt the same way.  

I like Carlos Martinez cards, but Michael Wacha, Matt Carpenter, and Kolten Wong?  All fine players, just not rushing out to find their cards.  Certainly not spending a lot of effort to chase them down, nor spending a lot of money to add them to my collection.  

Enter Marcell.  

Seems like a player worthy of some excitement.  Sorry about that highlight Blake Snell.  I still like you, but that was a terrible pitch.  

So, my good Marcell cards while playing for the Cardinals count has jumped from zero to two.  I am really happy to see these two show up in my mailbox and into my card collection.  First up, I added a cool Minor League card of the new Cardinals left fielder.  

Not any real connection to the Jupiter Hammerheads, but if you have visited this page long enough, you know that I enjoy Minor League cards.  It's not the Durham Bulls, or a local North Carolina team, but I am still generally a fan of these cards.  The Hammerheads actually play in the same stadium that the Cardinals use for their Spring Training games.  The facility is shared with the Marlins. 

This card is from the 2013 set which is from the good old days when Topps put a larger, stand alone logo on their Minor League patch card, as opposed to the small pennant cards they have used the last year or two.  

Next up.  Really nice card.  

Marcell Ozuna appeared in the 2013 Topps Heritage set as an autograph signer.  Not exactly the set you think of when you are trying to find an autograph of a younger player, but this card is spectacular.  There are plenty of different autographs of Ozuna that have been put out over the years, many appear in some very nice products, but this is perhaps the best autograph of the new Cardinals left fielder on a baseball card.  

When Ozuna was traded to the Cardinals, and I started researching what was available, this card was at the top of my list.  Really happy to cross it off my list right away.  

Friday, February 16, 2018

Friday Five - Top 5 MLB Players From NC State

It's the first day of the college baseball season. My Wolfpack are home for three games against Seton Hall.  If it weren't going to be 40 this weekend I would consider venturing out for a game.  I will wait for a little warmer weather.  

In the meantime, here are a few former Wolfpack players who made their way from Raleigh to the Major Leagues.  No Hall of Famers, but maybe you know a few of these players.....

Honorable Mention- Adam Everett 

Everett played for the Astros, Twins, Tigers, and Indians during his eleven year Major League career.  You probably best remember him as a member of the Astros in the early 2000s.  Not much of a hitter, but he was a really underrated defensive player.  Everett ended his career with a .242/.294/.346 slash line.  That's really painful.  He also ended his career with a 15.6 dWAR, which included seasons of 2.2, 2.5, 3.3., and 4.1.  He finished in the top 5 in that category four different times during his career and he somehow managed to not win a Gold Glove.  

#5- Tim Stoddard 

Stoddard is the only Major League Baseball player who has both a World Series ring and an NCAA National Championship in basketball.  Stoddard was a member of NC State's 1974 National Championship team who beat Marquette for the title.  He averaged 20 minutes a game, scored 5 points per game, and grab 5 boards too.  Stoddard was not just sitting on the bench.  

He spent time guarding Bill Walton in the National Semi-Final Game against UCLA.  Former Braves and Indians outfielder Kenny Lofton played basketball at Arizona, appeared in World Series games and Final Four games, but won neither.  Interestingly enough, both Lofton and Stoddard went to the same high school outside of Chicago.  

Stoddard played 13 years for the Orioles, Yankees, Padres, and several other teams.  He spent his entire career as a fairly solid relief pitcher, including for the 1983 Orioles, who won the World Series.  Stoddard ended his career with a 41-35 record, a 3.95 ERA, and 76 saves.  

#4. Mike Caldwell 

Caldwell played a total of 14 years, most of those came with the Brewers after bouncing around between the Padres, Giants, Reds, and Cardinals early in his career.  His best seasons were almost all over 30 too, sort of a late bloomer.  At 29 in 1978, in his first full season with the Brewers, Caldwell won 22 games, and had an ERA of just 2.36.  He would go on to win in double digits for the Brewers six times and helped them win the American League East twice.  In 1982 the Brewers advanced to the World Series.  Caldwell won two starts for the Brewers against the Cardinals.  

#3. Dan Plesac 

Dan is on MLB Network, or at least the last time I checked he was on there.  He had a long career which had long stretches with the Brewers and Blue Jays, several other teams in there too.  At the beginning of hid career, Plesac was used as a closer, but spent the majority of his career as a middle reliever.  Not bad either, averaging almost a strikeout per inning over an 18 career.  Plesac made three All-Star Game rosters early in his career while he was serving as the Brewers closer.  Overall, he won 65 games, saved 158, and had an ERA of 3.64.

#2 Roger Craig 

Craig had some nice years for the Dodgers early in his career and helped the team win the World Series in 1955 and 1959.  He eventually ended up on the expansion Mets in the early 1960s and lost 46 games between the 1962 and 1963 seasons.  Craig was later traded to the Cardinals and picked up his third World Series ring in 1964, helping to beat the Yankees.  He ended his career in 1966 after a brief two year stint as a relief pitcher for the Reds and Phillies.  After retiring as a player, Craig managed the Padres (1978-1979) and Giants (1985-1992).  He led the Giants to the 1989 National League Pennant and won the 1990 National League Manager of the Year.  

#1- Dave Robertson 

It's hard to find a lot of biographical information about Robertson's MLB career, but there are a lot of gaps and partial seasons.  He was a World War I era player, but I cannot actually find any information about him being in the Army.  Not sure if he was injured, or what happened during some of the spaces in his career.  Tim Peeler, who works at NC State and does a lot of great writing about the athletic program, wrote a piece a few years back about the legend that is Dave Robertson around Raleigh.  The Peeler article mentions that he retired because of injuries, but more on that later.  

There was a three year stretch for Robertson starting in 1915 where he played more than 140 games in a season.  That only happened four times during his career.  He led the National League twice in home runs during that stretch.  The National League leaderboard is littered during those three years with appearances by Robertson.   He finished in the Top 10 in average, slugging, on base, runs, hits, total bases, doubles, and RBIs at some point during that time span.  

Robertson helped the Giants reach the 1917 World Series against the White Sox.  The Giants lost that World Series, but Robertson had a 11 hits in the Series.  The record is for hits in a World Series is 13, but Robertson played one less game than the record holder, who is former Red Sox second baseman Marty Barrett.  

Robertson's only other full season in the Majors came in 1920 with the Cubs.  He hit .300/.353/.462 with 10 home runs, 11 triples, and 29 doubles.  The next season, during 1921 he would hit for the cycle becoming just the 29th player to accomplish the feat in Major League history.  In 1922, he would pick up a World Series ring with the Giants in his final season, though he did not step foot on the field during the Fall Classic against the Yankees.  

For what it's worth, after leaving the Giants because of injuries, Robertson played another nine seasons in the Minor Leagues while managing various teams.  He never hit below .300 during his final stretch in the Minors and had a season with 35 home runs and another with 24.  Pretty impressive totals for the 1920s.  

Not a long career, but he was great when he stayed on the field.   

Monday, February 12, 2018

I Love The 1990s Cardinals Part 22 - Terry Pendleton

There are numerous 1990s Cardinals who appeared with the team for only a season.  Most of them do not have much of an attachment to the team.  That's what is going to be a little bit difficult about this post.  Terry Pendleton was a 1990s Cardinals for one year.  It was a pretty terrible year.

Pendleton first appeared for the Cardinals in 1984 and spent the first seven seasons of his career in St. Louis.  He was a great defensive third baseman and had some good moments at the plate too.  During the 1985 Postseason, Pendleton had some pretty big moments driving in 7 runs against the Dodgers and Royals.....

One of his biggest moments as a Cardinal came against the Mets in a game late during the 1987 season.  The Mets were leading the game with two outs in the ninth and on the verge of getting into first place.  Pendleton hit a game tying home run......

and the Cardinals won the game in extra innings.  The Mets did not come close the rest of the way and the Cardinals won the National League East.  

Seemingly half of the Cardinals roster were potential free agents entering the 1990 season and the wheels fell of the bus early in the season.  The team finished last in the National League East, manager Whitey Herzog quit in the middle of the season, and there were numerous players who failed to play up to their expectations.  

Pendleton was one of them.  

Every statistic was a career low/worst for Pendleton in 1990.  He hit .230/.277/.324 with 6 home runs, and 20 doubles.  Pendleton did have a solid year in the field, but even some of his defensive stats were lower than his normal highs.  Sadly, the Cardinals closed out the season with a long east coast road trip that resulted in the team losing their last seven games of the year.  

Pendleton's role during the last road trip?  

Sitting on the bench.  New Cardinals manager Joe Torre decided to move Todd Zeile to third base in hopes of finding Pendleton's replacement.  It also allowed Tom Pagnozzi, who was a great defensive catcher, to actually see the field.  During September of 1990 the Cardinals only played Pendleton 8 times with a total of 21 at bats.  

Probably not the ending that Pendleton probably wanted in St. Louis.  Let me quickly show off my three favorite Pendleton cards from the 1990s.  

His Score card is easily my favorite.  Pendleton was a good defensive player and I like this action shot of him fielding.  Bonus that the picture is in Busch Stadium.  Not sure what the result of this play was, but if it was on the ground around Pendleton and Ozzie, there is a really good chance the batter was out.  

Without narrowing it down to a year, or two, this is still a really good Pendleton card.  

My second favorite is his 1991 Topps card.  Last base Topps card featuring Pendleton in a Cardinals uniform.  I cannot remember which set Topps has put him in recently, but I am pretty sure that he has a few newer Cardinals cards floating around.  I like the batting cage/batting practice look of this card.  I cannot quite decide if this card is somehow staged, the background is in Candlestick Park, but something looks off about it. 


His 1990 Bowman.  I know it's a generic staged card that was made off of a Spring Training photo.  I really like that hat that Pendleton is wearing.  Is that regulation?  It looks like he forgot his hat and picked one up a gas station.  Is there writing inside of the hat, or is that sweat? 

In the end, Pendleton left the Cardinals for the Braves, won a batting title and an MVP Award in 1991, and had a pretty nice second half of his career.  He was still a great fielder, just seemed to find his bat in Atlanta.  

Pendleton has also had a nice career as a coach post-retirement with the Braves.  He has been the bench and hitting coach and learned how to get tossed out of games from Bobby Cox.  

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Another Raleigh-Durham Post

I am not going to rehash the whole story in this post, but in the late 1960s the Durham Bulls bought and merged with the Carolina League franchise that played in Raleigh.  Long story short, we ended up with a few years of Raleigh-Durham teams rather than the Durham Bulls.  There was the Raleigh-Durham Mets, Raleigh-Durham Phillies, and the Raleigh-Durham Triangles.

Raleigh and Durham are two different cities.  They are roughly half an hour away from each other depending on traffic and which roads you take.  While the Bulls were playing as a "Raleigh-Durham" franchise, they were really playing in both cities, splitting their home game in between the Durham Athletic Park and Deveraux Meadows.

Not ideal, but the teams were actually pretty good during this time.

The Raleigh-Durham Mets finished first in the Carolina League in 1968, the Phillies came in second in 1969, and the Triangles also came in second in 1970.

There were some good players on these teams too.  I have posted a few on here over the past few years.  Last week I was fortunate enough to pick up three new cards of  two different players from the 1969 Raleigh-Durham Phillies.

Two pretty impactful players to say the least considering both were on the 1980 Phillies teams that brought the franchise their first ever World Series title.

So, I will go first with the catcher from the last out in the video.  

Bob Boone was a long time catcher for the Phillies, as well as several other teams during a long Major League career.  He is also the father of Bret and Aaron Boone.  I like the design and appearance of this card, but Topps really mangled this from the original.

If you are not familiar with the 2001 Topps Archives set, the players were featured in the set on a minimum of two cards.  Their first card in the set was their rookie, with the second card being their last appearance on a Topps card.  They took some liberties with the rookie cards that originally had multiple players on the front.

The original Bob Boone rookie featured......

Skip Jutze and Mike Ivie.  A Mike Ivie autograph would be alright.  Skip Jutze?  Sure.  

This Luzinski autographed card comes from the same set.  I had another Luzinski autograph prior to owning this card.  The black border looks nice on the base card from the Archives set, but I don't like it when they are given to players to sign.  Luzinski has a nice autograph and it is a bit of shame that the signature dips into the black border area.

Still an excellent card that is a welcome addition to the collection.

Similar to the Boone card above, this card was modified from it's original two player format to feature just Luzinski.

Last card.  My favorite of the three new cards in this post.  

Luzinski has been in several Topps products as a signer over the past number of years, but this Archives autograph out of the Fan Favorites products has to be one of his toughest signatures to track down.  I have seen several over the years, but price has been somewhat of a factor in the past.  Not sure if this card was officially ever declared a short print, not shown that way on most of the checklist sites, but they are usually listed that way on Ebay and COMC.

Pretty sure that the last Luzinski autograph is going to close me out on the whole Raleigh-Durham card scene for awhile unless someone actually makes cards with the Raleigh-Durham Mets, Phillies, or Triangles in their uniforms.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Project Durham Bulls #29 - Alex Sanchez

1999 & 2000 Durham Bulls 

Sanchez was born and grew up in Cuba.  At the age of 18 he, and a few other friends, tried to take a raft to Florida.  He was detained by the Coast Guard at Guantanamo Bay for roughly a year and half before he was allowed entry into the U.S..  Eventually Sanchez enrolled in Miami-Dade Community College and was drafted by the Devil Rays in the 5th round of the 1996 MLB Draft.  

Alex Sanchez reached Triple A Durham for a few games in 1999.  He returned to Durham in 2000 and appeared in 107 games and almost 500 plate appearances.  I'm not sure that many people have a grasp on who Alex Sanchez was as a player since he had a very limited Major League career, during which he became the first ever Major League player to be suspended for failing a drug test.  Positive steroid test, but not a power hitter.  

His most notable accomplishment as a Durham Bulls player was setting the team's single season stolen record as a Triple A team.  Former Braves outfielder stole 100 while the Bulls were a Single A team in the Carolina League.  

In all, Sanchez appeared in just over 400 Major League games appearing for the Brewers, Tigers, Rays, and Giants.  His slash line isn't half bad at .296/.330/.372, if you do not look at slugging percentage.  Sanchez had two fairly big years with stolen bases.  In 2002, he ended the year fifth in the National League stealing 37 bases for the Brewers.  The following season Sanchez had a total of 52 steals while playing for the Brewers and Tigers.  44 of those steals came in Detroit, landing him second in the American League behind another former Durham Bull, Carl Crawford.  

The Fleer Autographics cards were a different kind of mega-autograph set.  Most of the large autograph sets from the late 1990s and early 2000s were of the per pack variety.  Autographics were a cross product set for Fleer.  I am not sure how many different sets had Autographics cards, but I would guess they were in most of the major releases that year.  

There are some really solid names in the set, plenty of Hall of Famers, and a few other players who never quite made it anywhere.  I would hate to say that Sanchez did not go anywhere.  He made the Majors, which is a great accomplishment for a guy who tried to get into the country on a raft and spent more than a year in a prison.  

Overall, these are just a nice looking, well designed set of cards, that were put out by Fleer with no sticker autographs.  Again, throw in the strong checklist, and these are fun cards to collect.  

Monday, February 5, 2018

I Love The 1990s Cardinals Part 21 - Gregg Jefferies

Gregg Jefferies was supposed to be a superstar caliber player for the New York Mets in the late 1980s.  The next great thing.  He was selected in the first round of the 1985 MLB, hit in the .330s at almost every stop in the Minors with power and speed.  As baseball card collectors, we all know the 1989 Gregg Jefferies cards.....

they are borderline legendary.

Well, except that Gregg Jefferies never really became the next big thing and he was never really a superstar either.  Barely even an All-Star.  He was a little bit immature, threw batting helmets, and pulled all sorts of interesting antics that did not really win him many fans.

Like the time he made the last out of a game against the Phillies, touched first, and then ran after the pitcher.

Jefferies was not really hitting like he was supposed to, so the Mets traded him the Royals for Bret Saberhagen.  He did not hit in Kansas City and the Royals traded him to the Cardinals for Felix Jose.  That's when Gregg Jefferies actually played like he was supposed to play in the late 1980s, only now it was 1993.  He was still only 25.  

Jefferies also still had a bit of a temper in St. Louis and still was one of the best helmet tossers in all of baseball.  

Let's review Gregg Jefferies time as a Cardinal.  

  • Gregg Jefferies made two All-Star games during his career. 
  • Gregg Jefferies made two All-Star games for the Cardinals in 1993 and 1994 
  • Gregg Jefferies hit higher than .325 twice in his Major League career
  • Gregg Jefferies hit over .325 in both seasons he played with the Cardinals 
  • Gregg Jefferies received MVP votes in only two seasons during his career 
  • Gregg Jefferies finished in the top 20 in MVP voting while playing for the Cardinals in 1993 and 1994 
  • Gregg Jefferies had a career WAR of 19.4 in 14 seasons in Major League Baseball 
  • Gregg Jefferies had a WAR of 7 in 2 seasons with the Cardinals 
I could go on.  

As a Cardinal, Gregg Jefferies hit for a high average, sprayed the ball all over the park, showed some pop, and even almost stole 50 bases (actually 46) in a season.  He was on a really young Cardinals team that finished towards the bottom of the standings, but Jefferies was a really good player.  

After the 1994 season, Jefferies cashed in on his two good years in St. Louis by signing a big contract with the Phillies.  He was not very good.  Perhaps his best highlight as a Phillie was getting drilled by Pedro Martinez to start this epic brawl.  

For two years Gregg Jefferies was a great baseball player.  It was all captured in baseball card form with Jefferies in a Cardinals uniform.  I definitely have some favorites here, so I am going to run through a few.  

I am putting a limit on it here, I could go further.  


First up is an oversized Upper Deck All-Star card from 1994.  Jefferies is wearing running shoes and the photo was taken during batting practice.  That's all nice stuff, but I like this card for the background probably more than I like it for being a Gregg Jefferies card.  This is the Busch Stadium that I grew up with.  The bright red seats, blue walls in the outfield, arches around the top of the stadium, and the astroturf.  You can even spot a little bit of the Arch, the 600 foot steel one next to the river, to the right of Jefferies in the arch at the top of stadium.  Just a sliver.  

A Studio card.  How 1990s is this card?  This card was apart of the Heritage Collection which featured a modern player wearing a throw back uniform.  This Jefferies card is nice, but I was always a little bit miffed by the choice of dates on the part of Studio.  The Cardinals have won a few World Series over the years, so if you were going to do this set, would you not pick a year the team won something?  1928?  The Cardinals lost in the World Series.  In 1926, they won the World Series.  

Studio should have split the difference and put Jefferies in a 1927 Cardinals uniform.  

Teams weren't shy about saying the won something back then.  Seems like Jefferies would be good in this uniform with World Champions stamped on the chest.  Still wouldn't beat the McGwire card in this set where he is wearing an old A's uniform with a pill box hat.  

Different Studio card.  

I really like the 1993 set.  The jerseys in the background are nice, unless your team has really bad uniforms.  Blue and orange Padres and teal Marlins come to mid.  I also like that Studio put a picture on the card of Jefferies with a blue batting helmet.  Just a really nice looking card.  

Last card.  

Another oversized card.  This is a Fleer Extra Bases card.  I like the pictures on the front, which are more or less a border to border design.  The font and the colors on the front are a little bit on the mediocre side, and the brand logo is horrible, but the overall card is excellent.  I like that the picture in in Busch and you get an action shot of Jefferies running.  

Maybe if Jefferies had been a Cardinals player a little bit longer, maybe some of these cards would be a little more meaningful to baseball card collectors outside of a few people who followed some pretty terrible teams from the mid 1990s.  

a 1993 song on my IPod.  You get Liz Phair.  Lo Fi Liz Phair, not polished pop song Liz Phair.  

Sunday, February 4, 2018

That Didn't Last Long and A Set Update

I went into work at the end of last week and one of my students brought me a pack of 2018 Topps cards.  You know, the set that I am not collecting.  Hard to hand a pack of baseball cards back to an eleven year old and say, "Sorry, but I do not collect these".

I opened the pack of cards.....

First card of the year goes to Diamondbacks infielder Brandon Drury.  

First Cardinals card was Dexter Fowler.  I like the action shot.  

First former Durham Bulls player was Wil Myers.  

A few thoughts on the base cards.  First, the wave on the front of the card isn't nearly as bad as I thought it was going to look.  I am still not rushing out to buy a bunch of packs, but definitely better in person than online.  I will still always refer to these cards as the "Aqua Fresh" set.  

The card backs are a huge letdown.  

For the second year in a row we've lost the player's stat line in favor of some box with the player's Twitter and Instagram handle?  If someone was going to follow C.C. Sabathia on social media, I am pretty certain that they don't need a baseball card to prompt them to do it.  He has an Old English Sheepdog (+1), but he named it after an NFL team (-1).  

I know I have advocated for sets being more kid friendly, social media connections are definitely more kid friendly, but as a young collector the stats on the back were helpful with matching up players who appeared old and washed up on television versus someone my dad and older brother told me was a good baseball card.  

Fergie Jenkins comes to mind.  

Old guy pitching for the Cubs.   

Hall of Famer.  

Two more quick items.  First, I never posted the best card I pulled out of the pack with the scans above.  I was rather surprised, in a good way.  

Would love to have seen a Cardinals Postseason card, but the players have had a hard time overcoming Mike Matheny lately.  Maybe next year.  

Last item.  I have also started working on the 1983 Topps inserts.  I have picked up 8 of the cards so far.  I won't repost the whole checklist, but I have 92 more cards to find.  

I like the idea of mixing vintage and modern players in the 1983 set.  I wish the retired players matched up a little bit better with the players who actually appeared/played around that time.  Of the retired players in this group of cards only Darryl Strawberry seems to fit.  

I understand that Topps has to make as many Derek Jeter cards as possible, but he did not play in 1983.  Same with Canseco.  Can't we sub out Canseco for Rickey Henderson?  Seems like a better choice for an A's outfielder from the early 1980s.  Maybe a Don Mattingly in place of Jeter?